Truly brilliant tales all round, again! Raine - you have a brilliant way of fleshing out the 'world' of your character past the squadron life! Ace - 'Drongo' Drummond is an expertly crafted character, and feels incredibly 'real'. Brilliant work in really getting into every fine detail of your man! MFair - Enjoying Jericho a lot - just keep a weather eye open at the front Hasse - already like the sound of Julius...sounds like he may develop into a cold-blooded killer before this thing's through!
Sgt. Graham A. Campbell No. 20 Squadron R.F.C Netheravon, England.
5th January, 1916.
This morning, we were all thrilled to learn that the weather had evened out enough to permit flying again! The Major wasted no time in arranging a new training roster, and by mid-day Lt. Jem Ellis had appeared to give me a quick run-down of the flight leader's hand signals, before summoning Switch-off and I to the aerodrome, for formation flying practice. It was the first time either of us had even flown in the vicinity of another aeroplane, and I must admit that we were both a little nervous. Nevertheless, to the aerodrome we went, excitement mixed with our anxiety, briskly pulling on our flying coats and helmets as we trailed behind Ellis. Our observers were already on the airfield - they were to come up with us, to strengthen our bond in the air, as per the Major's instruction.
Although I am terribly excited to have the chance to fly again, I must admit that I was, rather selfishly, disheartened when I saw that the aircraft that had been prepared for us by the mechanics were three of our B.E.2s. I was hoping to finally pilot a 'Fee', but no such luck today. The ever-cheerful Cpt. Edith met me by the side of our machine, hoisting himself into the passenger's seat with catlike agility. "Looking forward tae oor first flight thagether, Campbell?" he asked me, grinning as he pulled his flying goggles down. I saluted and replied with a well-rehearsed "Yes, sir!", provoking an outburst of laughter from Edith. "Ach! A'm yer Observer, boyo! Nae need te be so formal aboot the rank! 'Mon, in ye get, afore Ellis gets impatient".
Obligingly I boarded my Bus, turning to my left and giving Switch-off a thumbs-up, which the nervous lad returned with a weak smile. The ground crew swung our props and, once they had cleared out, we raced after Ellis down the airfield, before lifting up into the refreshing cold of the morning. The B.E. purred along magnificently, and ahead of me Edith, still beaming, looked over the small farmlands and cottages that rushed below us, occasionally pointing out an old church, or an interesting cloud, or a flock of sheep to me. There seemed to be no reason behind his fascination with certain landmarks - the man merely had a wonderfully childish enjoyment of being in the air. Once we had extended north a little bit, we locked our eyes on to Ellis' B.E out in front.
Aha! The first hand-signal. I recognised it as the command for a "Chevron formation". As per instructed beforehand, Switch-off and I obediently pulled into a diagonal line, to the right of Ellis' B.E. Edith was now focused ahead, all the child-like excitement gone from his face. I was happily surprised by how serious he became when required to be. He'll see me through okay in France, I reckon. In Chevron formation, Ellis led us into a gradual right-hand turn, in which we fought the wind to stay in formation. Our buses were quite close, and I am sure Switch-off felt the pressure every bit as much as I did. Eventually, to our relief, we levelled out again and headed North by North-East, eventually crossing over the top of Upavon Aerodrome, where we could see the pilots below preparing for their own bouts of flying after the bad weather.
After a further ten minutes' flying in the Chevron formation, Ellis seemed satisfied enough to issue his second hand signal - 'V' formation. Being the 'tail-end-charlie', as I've heard some of the boys call it, the oneness was on me to skid over to the left of our formation and ride the throttle until I was line abreast with Switch-off, on Ellis' other side. Focusing hard, I performed the move, and soon we flew along in the 'V'. I felt awfully braced, for in my head we looked perfectly professional. Edith in the front seat flashed me a quick sharp-toothed grin and a thumbs up, before turning back to watch the flight leader.
From here, Ellis had us follow him, still in formation, in a series of climbs and descents. Apparently our flying sufficed, for after this exercise we promptly turned back for Netheravon. We flew quietly along, as I tried to keep my eyes from wandering over the beautiful English countryside - the snow had partly melted now, and the ground below shone brilliantly in a sheet of dew, giving the impression that the land was gleaming as if made of a thousand diamonds. Losing my focus for a moment, I watched below as a quiet little confined church on a hilltop shed some loose snow from its roof.
Suddenly, Edith tapped me on the shoulder, his familiar childlike grin having returned, and pointed out to our right side. I looked over, squinting my eyes, and shrugged. He pointed again, this time more vigorously, and I strained my eyes again, staring intently in the indicated direction. Ah, there! Three more B.E.2s, flying the opposite direction of us! My, they were quite far off - how had Edith seen them so readily? Well, I suppose that's why he is the observer and I, the pilot.
We reached Netheravon just under an hour after we'd set off, and landed one-by-one. Having made a perfect three-point landing, I was feeling very pleased with myself as I jotted down the details of the flight in my log-book. It was then that I realised, my, this was my first proper flight with No. 20! I must celebrate later tonight.
After taxiing to the side of the aerodrome and de-planing, I was briefly congratulated by Ellis on "A job properly done", before deciding to stay out a while longer to watch the other pilots come and go. Around two O'clock I saw Jacky-Boy preparing for his own formation training, accompanied by my fellow Sergeant Pilots, Archer and Jimmy Reynard. But, what was this? The mechanics were wheeling three Fees onto the aerodrome! Ashamedly, I must admit that I was positively green with envy as I watched Jacky-Boy climb into the pilot's position, shooting me a teasing glance as he did so.
Sadly, a black stain marred the day in the form of a letter from Hounslow Heath, sent by Weston and bearing awful news. Freddy Foster is in hospital - badly injured after spinning a De Haviland at low altitude. It is Weston's belief that Freddy's old Galipoli knee-wound meant that he couldn't gain proper mastery of the rudder needed to fly the craft, which as we've now heard can be quite the temperamental beast, but I cannot believe this - Freddy was the best of us at Hounslow in our training days! By any means, poor old Freddy was badly broken up in the smash - some of the men at Hounslow have apparently said he's a goner, but us that knew him are aware that the tough ANZAC is more than capable of pulling through. Weston promises to visit him and write me as to his condition. Still no word from Teddie Lawson in France.